Virgil van Dijk has paid tribute to Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal after he revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis and wants to give him a World Cup he will "never forget".
Van Gaal, who shared the news on Dutch television on Sunday, admitted it would be the first time his players found out about his condition.
“I was in shock last night when I heard his interview," said Van Dijk.
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“Obviously he’s getting his film out next week so I was just wondering how he would promote it a little bit and speak about his life and then obviously that was a big shock.
“I messaged him after the interview. But it definitely says a lot about him. I said to him as well that he’s not that type of guy that needs a lot of sympathy, that’s how he is.
“But I told him as well that we are definitely going to be there for him as a group whenever he needs it, and hopefully we can also make it for him a World Cup to never forget.”
Van Gaal is heading up the Dutch national team for the third time in his career and will step down after the Qatar World Cup.
Speaking on Dutch TV programme Humberto, Van Gaal said: “I think you don’t tell people you work with [the Dutch players] like that because it might influence their choices, their decisiveness, so I thought they shouldn’t know.
“You don’t die from prostate cancer, at least not in 90% of the cases. It is usually other underlying diseases that kill you. But I had a pretty aggressive form, got irradiated 25 times. Then you have a lot of management to do in order to go through life.”
The Netherlands were drawn alongside hosts Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal in the World Cup draw last week.
The latter team will almost certainly boast Van Dijk's club team-mate Sadio Mane.
“We joked that we were going to be in the same group and it happened. It’s going to be so hard, they’re obviously African champions. Opening game… I don’t know who decided 11am kick-off, but it’s going to be difficult,” said Van Dijk.
One of Van Gaal's former teams, Manchester United, posted a message of goodwill on their Twitter account in response to the news.
“Everybody at Manchester United is fully behind our former manager, Louis van Gaal, in his battle against cancer. Sending you strength and courage, Louis.”
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